Archive | January, 2011

Video: How To Zombie Proof Your Vehicle

Are you afraid the world is going to end? Do you think zombies are going to take over the planet? If you said yes to the second question, then boy do I have a video for you.

The video below will demonstrate step-by-step how to zombie proof your vehicle, along with some helpful tips on how to use some tools to protect yourself from these zombies.

The video is somewhat long for my tastes, but it is quite entertaining for those that have the patience.

[YouTube]

Best Explanation Of Independent Front Suspension Ever [NSFW]

I have friends come to me for car advice, questions and such all the time. Once in a while that will include questions about suspension setups. Explaining such things to people who really could care less about the technical side of cars is not always easy, but usually you can get the concept across.

The below Nissan Pathfinder commercial from Germany is possibly the absolute best explanation of independent front suspension ever. Another thing we can learn from this commercial is that clearly Germans have better advertisements than we do.

So grab a mini bag of popcorn and root beer, sit back and learn about how independent front suspension works.

[YouTube]

Video – Overview Of The 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback

While I have already posted my review, I wanted to share my quick video overview of the 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Mitsubishi

Review – 2011 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR: A Snowmobile For The Road

 

 

When I was a kid, I drooled over cars like the Subaru WRX STI, and the Mitsubishi. Not for just for their high output four cylinders, but for their entire drivetrains. Those high output four cylinders combined with the rally bred all-wheel drive systems are just a marvel to behold. When given the chance to have a 2011 Mitsubishi Evo MR Touring in my driveway for a week, I jumped all over it. Is the little rally bred street racer all I hoped? After spending a week with it, I finally have some answers.

The exterior of the Evo is menacing. I mean really, the front looks like it is going to eat you. From the sculpted hood with heat extractors and air inlet, to the gaping mesh grille, it all works. And don’t forget about those scowling headlights.

More than one person during the week asked me what that big silver thing was towards the bottom of the front clip. That my friends, is a nice big intercooler. It helps keep the hopped up four banger cool.

My Evo MR test vehicle sported some very nice light-weight 18″ BBS wheels shod with Bridgestone snow tires. Peeking behind those great looking wheels were a terrific set of Brembo brakes that kept this little beast in control at all times.

From the side view, the Evo MR almost looks like a normal Lancer, almost. The body kit has side skirts that extend from the rocker panels quite a bit, enough to make you pay attention when entering the car. If you aren’t careful, you’ll get a leg full of snow and slush.

My favorite part of the rear is definitely the taillights. Both during the day and even more so at night, they appear to be scowling at you. The MR deletes the big stupid boy racer wing off the trunk, and replaces it with a tasteful lip. Below the bumper lies an aggressive diffuser with two chrome exhaust tips protruding out.

Bottom line on the exterior of the Evo MR: it’s aggressive. The MR ditches the silly wing and makes the Evo almost passible as a car that doesn’t shout “Hey look at me Mr. Police man,” though I did say almost.

Before I get to the interior, lets get one thing straight….this car is about driving. The powertrain is what makes this car. This is evident in the interior.

If you read my review of the 2011 Lancer Sportback ES, you’ll know the interior materials on that car are a letdown. With hard plastics that can scratch easily, it just looks cheap. The Evo shares this interior because it is based off the Lancer.

The touring package blesses the Evo with terrific heated Recaro leather seats that are manually adjustable. These seats are terrific and also worth noting, absolutely not made for overweight Americans. I fit just fine, but many people will find these seats to be uncomfortable. They grip you in all the right places. When flying around a track, your body will not be moving around. That is exactly what you want from sport seats.

Sound was provided by the Rockford Fosgate Punch sound system. This system puts out 710-watts and is connected to 9 speakers and a 10″ subwoofer. In a word, it’s boomy. The highs are messy and the lows are loud, but muddy. In a car like this, how much does a sound system really matter anyway though, right?

Overall the interior is somewhat cheap, but hey, once you hit the go pedal you really don’t care. I assure you of this. Oh, and the seats make up for any problems you have with the crappy plastics.

Now what we have all really been waiting for: the powertrain and driving impressions. The Evo has one engine choice, a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder that has a twin-scroll turbocharger. This is good for 291-horsepower and 300 lb-ft, which of course goes to all four wheels.

The base Evo has a 5-speed manual transmission while the MR model features Mitsubishi’s 6-speed TC-SST transmission. The TC-SST transmission is Mitsubishi’s dual clutch transmission.

The TC-SST transmission has three modes: Normal, Sport, and S-Sport (Super Sport). These modes can be changed via a toggle next to the shifter. One thing to note: you can change the modes while driving, but to put the car in S-Sport you must be fully stopped, and hold the toggle for a few seconds. It is almost like a hidden mode. Normal is what you would expect, normal. Though it does seem to do exactly what you want when you want it in most conditions. Sport takes things up a notch keeping the revs higher, and shifts are a little harder. S-Sport is really just ridiculous for street use, it keeps the revs nearly always above 5,000 RPMS , and hits redline every time. Oh, and it also shifts so hard that you feel like you just hurt the transmission. I almost felt bad for it.

All Evo’s have what Mitsubishi calls Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC). The S-AWC system is a really sophisticated all-wheel drive system. It has more sensors than you can probably count. It also has an active center differential. Taking things even further, we have active yaw control in the rear. This is the part that makes the power go side to side in the rear. When you go around a corner, the power is being moved around to push and pull you, even when the wheels are slipping.

The S-AWC system has three modes which you change using a button near the emergency brake (how convenient). The modes are: Snow, Gravel, and Tarmac. Push the button and it will toggle through the modes. Each mode calibrates the S-AWC for the condition of which you selected. Remember, this is/was a rally bred car.

Driving the car is like piloting a go kart on the road. Though it is a really heavy go kart. At 3,500 lbs, it is surprisingly heavy! Turbo lag is here, but you realize it quick and plan accordingly. From a dead stop if you slam the gas it is a second of thinking “hmmmm” followed by “holy crap” once the revs hit about 3,000 RPMs.

The steering wheel is a nice diameter and the metal paddle shifters that lurk behind the steering wheel are great. They are mounted (correctly) on the steering column instead of on the steering wheel. You always know where they are.

Steering is direct and very responsive. It almost does what you are thinking, literally. With only 2.7 turns lock-to-lock, it does not take a ton of input to direct the Evo. It almost feels like a precision tool meant to listen to your every command.

When you take a corner, it almost doesn’t matter your speed. The S-AWC has a little graph that you can display in the information cluster. This shows you where the power is going in relation to the wheels. Hit the gas and take a corner fast, you’ll see the power go to the front inside wheel and rear outside wheel.

The suspension is somewhat harsh. When I say harsh, some will find it a bit ridiculous. I found it tolerable, though many will not.

With a 14.5 gallon gas tank I will recommend you watch the gas gauge closely. The Evo is rated at 17/22 mpg, but good luck getting that. I averaged anywhere from 14 to 18 mpg. As you might imagine, I went through quite a few tanks of gas. A high-output turbocharged 4-cylinder pulling that much weight literally chugs premium gasoline.

Along with your gas tank issue, make sure you pack light. The trunk has less than 7 cubic feet of cargo space. Between the rear mounted battery, windshield washer fluid tank, and the subwoofer, you will not be taking the kids stroller to the park along with that picnic basket.

So after spending a week with Mitsubishi’s halo car, was it everything I had hoped and dreamed? In a word, yes. I was disappointed that it was so heavy, and while I expected the low rent interior (man you should have see the last generation), the Evo is hard to argue with. At $41,995 as tested, it is not a cheap ride, but it starts at a little over $34k and you can choose how you option it from there.

The the Evo is a ton of coin; heck you are in small premium car territory at that price. You could even buy a Camaro SS or Mustang GT for less money, but they are a different type of performance. Those are brute power kind of cars.

At the end of the day the Evo is a ton of fun, and much more refined than past generations. You just need to know what you are buying for that kind of money. An expensive small car that chugs premium fuel and has little to no cargo room in the trunk. Did I mention the Recaro seats, TC-SST transmission and the mind bending all-wheel drive?

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Mitsubishi

Some Photography – Alex Bellus

Fail – Epic How Not To Tow A Car Out Of The Snow (NSFW)

For those that live in the snow belt states, we’ve all been there. Heck we are living it now! Stuck in the snow somewhere and needing a tow. Well this unlucky driver gets more help than he needed. With our total annual snow fall already on the ground here in Minneapolis, this video seems appropriate.

[YouTube]

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 37: “NAIAS Roundtable”

Episode 37 starts with introducing this weeks guests Zane Merva from AutoInsane.com and Adam Barrera from HighMileage.org. This week we find the garage filled with an Infiniti QX56 that is in Zane’s garage for the week. I had the Mitsubishi Outlander GT and currently have a MazdaSpeed3.

We skip the major news of the week and dive right into our main topic. This week we have a roundtable discussion surrounding the major reveals at the Detroit Auto Show (NAIAS) show.

  • 2012 Audi A6
  • 2012 Chevrolet Sonic
  • 2012 Buick Verano
  • Porsche 918 RSR
  • Cadillac CTS-V Coupe race car
  • 2012 Toyota Prius V
  • 2012 Ford Focus Electric
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2011 Chrysler 300
  • 2011 BMW 1M Coupe
  • 2012 Ford C-Max
  • 2012 Honda Civic Concept

We finish up by discussing our winners and losers of the show.

Last we plug our respective sites: HighMileage.orgAutoInsaneAutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Download this episode (right click and save)

2011 Detroit Auto Show: The Good, The Great, The Sad

While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.

Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.

But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.

Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.

The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.

I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.

Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.

Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.

But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.

Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.

I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.

While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.

At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.


Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 36: “Bad Beak”

Episode 36 starts with introducing this weeks guest Nick Saporito from GM Inside News and Ford Inside News. This week we find the garage quite full. Both Nick and I  have had Cadillac Escalade Platinum’s along with Chevrolet Cruze’s. Also in the garage I have a Mitsubishi Evolution MR and Nick has a Buick Regal Turbo.

We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included:

  • Top 10 ugliest car grilles [Link]
  • Dealers are creating monster Camaros [Link]
  • Great YouTube find: CHP video from 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake [Link]
  • How to install and iPad in your Mustang [Link]

Next came our main topic which was discussing what’s coming in 2011. We take a look at Ford’s financial goals along with some Detroit Auto Show talk.

Last we plug our respective sites: Ford Inside News, GM Inside News, AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Download this episode (right click and save)

2011 Detroit Auto Show – See You There

The holidays are over and winter is in full swing, that can only mean one thing, it’s time for the Detroit Auto Show! Sunday I’ll be packing my gear and flying out to Detroit to walk under the bright lights and sip on Monster Lo-Carb.

The High Gear Media crew (myself included) will be invading COBO bright and early (5 AM CST) to bring you the latest coverage. We have a Detroit Auto Show hub that will pull in all the latest news, videos, pictures and more from the show floor. We will also be live tweeting and posting to Facebook through out the day. So make darn sure to bookmark our Detroit Auto Show hub and also become a fan and or follow our sites on Twitter, of course some information will also flow here as well. Now where did I put my pony keg of Monster Lo-Carb…

Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors

Review – 2011 Chevrolet Cruze: GM Finally Builds A Competitive Compact Car

Back in September I had the opportunity to attend the press drive for the new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. At the time I was enamored with the fact that Chevrolet might have built a compact car that didn’t suck.

You see in my lifetime (that I can remember), Chevrolet hasn’t had a class leading compact sedan. Heck, not even a really competitive compact sedan. The Cruze is set to change all that. But is it really class leading, and if it is, how long can its reign last?

The exterior of the Cruze is a mix of good and bad. The front is aggressive with swept back headlights and Chevrolet’s dual-port shield grille. The hood has a nice crease that runs down the center and around the sides. This adds to the aggressive look of the swept back headlights.

Below the headlights sit two black blank pieces of plastic. This is where the fog lights would go if you optioned for the RS package. It seems downright silly that even an Cruze LTZ (the highest trim level) wouldn’t have fog lights without an optional RS package. The front is aggressive, but they could have taken it even further.

The sides have a strong character line that sweeps from the front fenders back into the rear taillights. The bottom of the doors also have some sculpting that visually make the Cruze look less slab sided.

Around back is the most disappointing part of the Cruze exterior. Visually it will not offend anyone. The flip side of that is the rear is quite boring. It is like the designers of the front ran out of energy. Maybe they got tired one night and said, just call it good and be done with it. While I’m not sure exactly what happened, at the end of the day it’s bland. The rear blends in with the sea of cars on the road.

At one point I stated that the current generation Malibu might be the tightest screwed together car GM makes. The Cruze definitely is giving the Malibu a run for its money. It also has tight panel gaps and a solid overall feel.

Chevrolet has been bragging about the interior in the new Cruze quite a bit lately, and I must say, they have every right to do so. The materials all feel high quality and look terrific. While there is quite a bit of hard plastic inside the cabin, it all looks nice with low shine and nice graining.

ThefFront seats are very comfortable, and are highly adjustable for being manual seats. It is easy to find a comfortable driving position with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Chevrolet is touting midsize sedan room for the Cruze, even though it is a compact sedan. That extra room is felt in the rear seat. Foot and leg room is more than ample and it also has a decent seating position.

The center stack features black high gloss plastic in the shape of a flux capacitor. The buttons all have a high quality feel to them. I found it notable that the climate control knobs had no wiggle and that they felt solid.

Chevrolet knows that Ford has been touting its Microsoft SYNC system loud lately, so they had to do something. The new Cruze might be one of the most tech savvy cars out of GM in recent years. The Bluetooth system downloaded my phonebook, so every time someone called, the screen showed the callers name. You can also scroll through your contacts on the screen. The USB port will read almost any device that you plug-in – my iPhone 4 worked seamlessly with the sound system.

I found it unique that the dashboard featured cloth that matched the material on the seats. The Cruze I was in featured red cloth both on the seats and on the dash. All models that have leather feature a leather-like material on the dash instead of cloth. If GM had not added this unique touch, the dashboard would be a sea of hard plastic like most of the competition. It is clear that a ton of thought was put into the design and quality of the interior.

Two engines are currently available in the Cruze, but most will be sold with the 1.4-liter turbo inline four-cylinder. This engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. This powertrain is rated at 24/36 mpg but I averaged 25 mpg in mixed urban suburban driving and a disappointing 29.4 mpg on a holiday highway trip.

Sadly, as it stands the only transmission choice is a six speed automatic. The transmission is fine, but I would’ve liked to have seen a manual option for those that like to row their own gears. Initially, reports flowed out that the transmission was poorly programmed. Chevrolet has since performed a firmware upgrade to the transmission that helps with these issues.

Overall I found transmission to be fine, though it hesitates to downshift. Acceleration is acceptable but don’t go street racing a Cobalt SS at the stoplight. Passing is its one weakness. The power just isn’t there to fling you forward, it builds slowly. Also, that manual shift capability? Don’t bother. It takes about half a second to register before it will perform the shift.

Cruze features electric power steering to help improve gas mileage. The application is probably one of GM’s best to date. Steering is light at parking lots speeds, but firms up once on the highway.

The Cruze 1LT I tested featured: connectivity plus package, 16″ alloy wheels, crystal red metallic tintcoat, and a compact spare tire. The total sticker price on this particular Cruze 1LT was $20,240 after destination. That places the Cruze at the high end of the compact car class. The Cruze isn’t a cheap compact, but it is a substantial compact car.

Back to the beginning, I was initially impressed with my first experience with the Cruze. After spending an entire week with a 1LT model, am I still as impressed? In one word, yes. I was slightly disappointed with the gas mileage, but the engine is smooth and quiet.

As for the question about the Cruze being class leading, the short answer is yes – for now. The competition is all getting refreshed and the Cruze has been on sale across the world for over a year. The new Hyundai Elantra is rated at 40 MPG on the highway across the board, the new Focus has some impressive technology available, and we don’t even know what the new Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla will bring. At the end of the day, the new Cruze is currently one of the most competitive compact cars on the market.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors